You must lead world from abyss, urges Ban
The world is nearing a point of no return and only decision makers at the climate change conference in Durban "can bring us from the edge", United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said.
But the goal of reaching a legally binding agreement might not be possible by the end of COP17 this week, he told heads of states, royalty and ministers .
"Let me speak plainly. We must be realistic about the expectations for a breakthrough in Durban. We know the reasons: grave economic troubles in many countries, abiding political differences, conflicting priorities and strategies for responding to climate change.
"And it may be true, as many say, the ultimate goal of a comprehensive binding climate-change agreement may be beyond our reach, for now." Ban said.
He nevertheless urged delegates to forge ahead to make "real progress here in Durban".
"It would be difficult to overstate the gravity of this moment. Without exaggeration, we can say the future of our planet is at stake: people's lives, the health of the global economy, the survival of some nations."
Ban told delegates that the World Meteorological Organisation had reported that carbon emissions were at their highest and continued to rise, and the world was looking to COP17 for leadership.
"Yes, we all recognise the realities of our time, the economic crisis, the dictates of fiscal austerity, often domestic politics. Yet the world and its people cannot accept no for an answer in Durban. To the contrary, I say to you that now is the moment to be ambitious," he said.
The Kyoto Protocol was the closest the world had to a global agreement.
"While Kyoto alone will not solve today's climate problem, it's a foundation to build on with important institutions. It provides the framework the markets sorely need. Carbon pricing and carbon trading depend on a rules-based system. It is important that we do not create a vacuum."
The Kyoto Protocol commits 37 developed countries to reducing carbon emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Negotiations have been deadlocked as countries decide whether to sign, by week end, for a second-commitment period.
On Monday, China, the world's biggest carbon emitter and one of the countries that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, hinted it was ready to commit to a legally binding agreement on climate change. However, the US, Japan, Canada and Russia are refusing to be bound by it.